The current public health emergency has caused a number of issues for many of our clients, but one of the most difficult logistical problems has been ensuring Wills are correctly signed whilst complying with the Government’s social distancing regulations. If your Will has not been signed correctly it will be invalid and your wishes may not be respected.
The original Act of Parliament governing the requirements for signing a Will dates back to 1837, although the law was modified in 1982. The basic requirement for a Will to be signed in the physical presence of two witnesses dates back almost 200 years and was not addressed by the Government for the first six months of the pandemic.
Last month, however, the Government introduced new, temporary legislation to make it easier to sign Wills whilst complying with social distancing regulations and staying safe. For any Will signed before 31 January 2022, rather than needing to be physically present to see you sign your Will, your witnesses can instead watch you sign your Will via any form of live video, provided they can see and hear you at the time you sign your Will.
The remaining requirements for ensuring a Will is signed correctly are still in effect. This means both of your witnesses will still need to sign the same copy of your Will as you, and again they must do this while you watch them. They do not, however, need to watch each other signing.
Fortunately, this can also be done via live video once the Will has been dropped through their door or posted to them, although we recommend that they both do so as soon as possible after you have signed.
This change in legislation has also been backdated, which means anyone who has correctly signed their Will in this way since 31 January 2020 can be confident that their Will is valid.
Throughout the pandemic, we have ensured our staff have been available to witness Wills in a safe and secure way and will continue to do so for anyone who is unable to sign their Will remotely. However, for those who would prefer to sign their Will remotely, we do have the facility to witness Wills via videoconference and can discuss this option with you when your Will is ready to be signed.
If you wish to know more or want to contact our Wills team, please call us on 01892 824 577 or on firstname.lastname@example.org.